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Apple a Monopolist? Only in Microsoft-Think

Published January 11th, 2009

I recently read another positive article about Apple in Computerworld, this one covering Apple's 5 Biggest Moments in 2008. Unlike some other Apple coverage in Computerworld, this one was largely a yawn, but don't you know that most of the comments (as usual) were from Windows partisans who were simply angry that Apple was given any positive coverage at all!

Recently, that seems to be the standard for virtually any online article that has something nice to say about Apple. Rather than commenting on the substance of the article, some anti-Apple type will immediately start dissing the company in a totally ignorant and offensive manner. Sometimes, such drivel will be met with commenters defending Apple, but quite often it merely attracts other Apple hecklers.

The Computerworld article cited above was no different, but there was one comment from a guy who, though claiming to have some positive feelings about Apple, levels a charge that comes straight from the Microsoft propaganda machine. This propaganda only started a few years ago, when Apple began to have success with non-computer products like iTunes, the iPod, and now the iPhone. Microsoft loved to spread the word that Apple's products were all "closed," while Microsoft's were "open," and many listeners, without actually thinking about this illogical line of thinking, bought the propaganda and are now spreading it themselves.

So it was with this writer on Computerworld, who stated:

Ok, I have to do some flaming here. Apple is a VERY innovative company. I even own some Apple creations. However; not everything Apple does is golden and I think that was minimized by the article. They are the most controlling monopolistic protectionist company in electronics and media. I am not a Microsoft fan, but I am thinking even M$ worships at the alter of Apple's ability to monopolize. If M$ tried half the things Apple flaunts they would be in courts all over the world - again.

These OS revisions... Bunk. Usually not more then a service pack. True Leopard was an advancement, but with only a .x revision? Whatever. It is a way for Apple to make money that has not sunk in with the M$ lot yet. Yearly $99 updates... Much better then 4-5 year complete revisions overall for the company's bottom line. Apple's UNIX flavor is very friendly to these updates too, unlike the M$ monster.

AppStore. Distribution limited to Apple's discretion? Hefty profit sharing with Apple... There are pro's and con's but MONOPOLY is what it comes down to. The word never came up in the article but that is what it amounts to. Think if MS tried to do that? Or RIM or Palm, etc.

iTunes. True great functionality, but at the same time I have complaints. I want to buy 20 songs at once - still can't REALLY do that. (i.e. Fill a cart and then buy) How about the Apple updater that wants you to install all kinds of invasive apps all the time? It IS very invasive too - the fact that it bloats your OS by running half a dozen services at all times is nuts.

iPods/iPhones. Require iTunes for support... Only work with iTunes to date... MONOPOLY?

I just couldn't let this challenge go unanswered, so I didn't. The following is what I published in response on Computerworld. In a nutshell, it explains why this guy's line of reasoning is bunk, and why, no matter how much Microsoft would like folks to think so, Apple is absolutely not a monopolist in any sense of the term.

Confusion over the term "monopoly"

First up in the comments to this article there was the guy who asserted that Microsoft isn't a monopolist even though they have been convicted as one. They still have a legally defined monopoly on corporate desktops, as well as of office productivity software.

Then there's this guy who thinks Apple has a monopoly just because it owns and runs the iTunes store or the AppStore. This is MicrosoftThink at its greatest. Let's see...

Apple produces iTunes. Apple makes iPods. Apple makes iPhones. Apple makes Macs. Etc.

Apple doesn't let anyone else run the iTunes or Appstores, nor do they let other companies produce iPods, iPhones, or Macs.

Microsoft-Think says this is BAD. Why? Because MS is a software company that doesn't make hardware (well, except for Xbox and they're iPod-wannabe), but lets lots of hardware companies license their OS (with lots of strings attached, of course). This has been a very successful model for MS, but is it an appropriate model to use as the basis for looking at Apple?


Apple has always (well, except for a short period when they were desperate) maintained that ensuring quality products requires that they produce both the hardware and software components. There's nothing whatsoever wrong with this model. In fact, this is the model for nearly all the rest of the industrial market. The MS model is a historical accident resulting from IBM's dumb mistake in letting them provide the software for their PC, and then letting other companies clone said PC.

Consider:Toyota makes cars. Toyota makes trucks.Does Toyota let anyone else make Toyota cars or trucks? Of course not.Does that make Toyota a monopoly? It's really silly to ask.


General Electric makes refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers, radios, etc.Does GE license the blueprints for these products to other companies?Like I said, what a silly question!

Or... runs an online store selling books and thousands of other products, sort of an online department store like Macys.While Amazon lets other sellers market their wares on the Amazon store, they don't let anyone else use the intellectual property they developed to build the store, populate it with goods, process transactions, handle customers, etc. No one but Amazon can run the Amazon store.

In much the same way, Apple lets musicians and software developers market their goods on their iTunes stores. Just like Amazon, Apple screens products and suppliers to make sure their products meet the company's standards.

Or finally...

Another parallel to consider re: the store concept is the brick-and-mortar model. Who do you think buys products for Macys? If you think it's anyone but a Macy's employee, you're seriously out of touch. Of course Macy's buys their own products, and they choose only those that meet Macy's standards. 

Why? Well, because it's a Macy's store!

There's nothing at all unusual in this, and if you think there is, you're simply living in a Microsoft-Think universe.

So, learn what a monopoly is, and what it isn't, before you start throwing that term around.

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